Strade Bianche the first goal of the spring all in action from Tom Pidcock

Shortly before the start of the opening leg of the Volta ao Algarve, the speaker grew increasingly concerned about whether the last team in the running order would arrive on time for their place in the presentation. pre-race. “Ineos, please Ineos on the podium,” he announced with polite urgency.

On the third request, the British team exited their bus and gently pedaled to the podium at the elegant marina in Portimão to the almost palpable relief of the speaker, without there being the slightest doubt that Ineos Grenadiers eventually show up for work. Indeed, their roster in Portugal this week includes a man who appears to be perpetually on guard.

Last year, Tom Pidcock found the time in his first season at the WorldTour level to win gold in mountain biking at the Tokyo Olympics. This winter, he became world cyclo-cross champion. Now, just over two weeks later, he begins his road season at the Volta ao Algarve.

His 2022 schedule is expected to include a full classics campaign, Giro d’Italia debuts and tilts to two more rainbow jerseys, but over the next few days in southern Portugal Pidcock’s main focus is to reacquaint themselves with the demands of the road after a winter on the cyclo-cross circuit.

Pidcock spends his life as a cyclist switching between disciplines, much like Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson swinging between baseball and American football, and he rarely seems to miss a beat during transitions. The transition from cyclo-cross to the road, he explained on Wednesday, is fortunately more benign than the reverse.

“The hardest part will be cyclo-cross for sure,” said Pidcock. “With this one, the only thing is stamina, but it comes. And I already have a good base from winter training camps, so that shouldn’t really be a problem.”

Nothing ever seems to be for Pidcock, who last year went straight from mountain biking gold in Tokyo to making his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España. In the days following his cyclo-cross worlds victory in Fayetteville, Pidcock found time to take a short break in New York before returning to Europe for the third dose of his COVID-19 vaccine.

He then spent the week before the Volta ao Algarve training in the region, first alone, then with teammates Geraint Thomas and Dylan van Baarle.

“I’m fine. I had a short break, I had a good training this week in the Algarve and I can’t wait to race again,” said Pidcock, who added that he had no plans. on the general classification of the Volta ao Algarve.

“Dani [Martinez] is our GC leader and I have a free role, just to see where I’m at. I did a pretty decent workout, but I had a break and haven’t raced on the road yet. It will be interesting to see where my level is.”

The 32.2km time trial on the penultimate day should decide the final general classification, and while teammates Thomas and Martinez will expect to be in the forefront in Tavira, Pidcock intends to test himself on the two summit finishes of this race, on the Alto da Fóia on Thursday and on the top of the Alto do Malhão during the last stage.

“I haven’t done any time trial preparation, so it doesn’t make sense to push the time trial, but on stages 2 and 5 I can test myself,” he said. he declares. “I think I’m in good shape, but I think stage 2 will see where I am. I think it’s about finding the road stages now.”

At least he found the road shoes where he last left them. As Pidcock stood near the podium, someone pointed out a scuff on his shoes. He shrugged. “It’s from my accident when I broke my collarbone [in June – ed.]”, he said. “The cleats are in the right place, so I always wear them.”

Strade Bianche the first target

After the Volta ao Algarve, Pidcock heads north for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, where he underlined his clear potential on the road last year with a third-place finish.

While Pidcock has suggested he could still find his legs on the road at the opening weekend of this season, the first firm target of his campaign comes a week later when he takes on Strade Bianche, where he s ranked fifth last year.

“The first objective is Strade”, confirmed Pidcock, who will have plenty of them in the spring, with Milan-San Remo, Dwars door Vlaanderen, the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race, Brabantse Pijl, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne – Liège everything on its provisional calendar.

The only concession to rest comes when he forgoes E3-Classic and Ghent-Wevelgem in favor of a short stay at altitude, but less than two weeks after Liège he will be back in the fray at the Giro d’Italia.

“Tom considers this his first Grand Tour, as he raced the Vuelta last year without specific preparation,” said his coach Kurt Bogaerts. Het Laatste Nieuws this week.

Most riders would rest after such excitement, but Pidcock will settle for a change. At the end of the summer, he is due to compete in the MTB Worlds in Les Gets and he is among the favorites for the road Worlds in Wollongong a month later, although he has played down his chances of simultaneously holding rainbow jerseys. rainbow in three disciplines.

“It’s a goal…” Pidcock smiled. “But everyone says this year. I didn’t say this year, I just said at some point.”

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